How It Happened, Luke 2:8-15
There were shepherds in that region, out in the open, keeping a night watch around their flock. An angel of the Lord stood in front of them. The glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. “Don’t be afraid,” the angel said to them. “Look: I’ve got good news for you, news which will make everybody very happy. Today a savior has been born for you—the Messiah, the Lord!—in David’s town. This will be the sign for you: you’ll find the baby wrapped up, and lying in a feeding-trough.” Suddenly, with the angel, there was a crowd of the heavenly armies. They were praising God, saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And peace upon earth among those in his favor.” So when the angels had gone away again into heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Well then; let’s go to Bethlehem and see what it’s all about, all this that the Lord has told us.” 1
Ultimately Advent is a practice in waiting. Waiting for the small and the large things that will come to pass. Waiting for vacation to start. Waiting for snow. Waiting to be with family & friends. Waiting to open presents.
It is a season of longer waitings too. The long waiting of suffering to end. The long waiting of God’s justice to be done. The long waiting for the promises of God to be fulfilled. The long waiting of a savior to be born who will enact the rule and reign of God himself as King.
In this final week of our series we reflect on the long waiting of Advent. The passage this week, Luke 2:8-15 is part of a classic Christmas reading.
In fact, just the other night my wife’s family and I continued our annual tradition by gathering together and reading it out loud. We do this every year because it is the story where it happens, Jesus is born under a miraculous set of circumstances, and we remember.
But this week, in the days leading up to Christmas, we want to remember this is still a season of waiting. Not only that, Advent is a season of learning how to wait with others who are waiting.
The shepherds in the Christmas story give us rich material to reflect on as we consider what it means to live and wait and move as the people of God.
I love that in their introduction to the story they are described as “keeping a night watch” over their flock. While this has many wonderful and important practical applications when it comes to protecting sheep, it is also the context under which they are able to see the glory of the Lord appear.
The shepherd’s keeping of a night watch sums up how we might live as a people in the waiting of Advent. When we are suffering, we long for someone to keep watch with us. We long for a friend to say:
“I am with you in your pain, I don’t have all the answers, but I am here and somehow God is here too.”
This is the kind of attentiveness and presence we are called to offer, and Advent is a call to remember that as Christians our story is one of waiting, longing, glory and hope. The people of God are a people of waiting.
To be the people of God in the waiting of Advent means to keep a night watch with the suffering and marginalized until the hope of Christ comes.
We are still waiting for the good news to come. We are still waiting for the doctor's diagnosis. We are still waiting for the verdict, to see if justice will be done. We are still waiting to see if we will face deportation or not. We are still waiting. And we wait with those who wait.
Advent is a season of waiting and learning how to wait with others. It is the beginning of hope breaking out into the blood, dark and dirt of suffering. In the long waiting of Advent, somehow, someway, God shows up. Glory to God, Peace on Earth. Amen.
Here is one area to reflect on during this fourth week of advent:
I. Keeping Watch: In what area in your life do you find yourself waiting for answers, clarity or a word from God? Who else in your life is in a season of waiting? Reflect on what it would mean to invite others into your waiting. Alternatively, consider what it would look like to choose into keeping watching with a person waiting in your life.
1 Wright, N. T.. The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation (p. 110-111). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
Words: Geoff Gentry
Photos: Bryan Chung